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9 Impressive Facts About the Leonberger

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These cuddly dogs were bred to resemble lions, but they really look more like teddy bears. Learn more about these impressively large canines.

1. THEY HAIL FROM GERMANY.

Heinrich Essig, a noted politician, is generally credited with the creation of the Leonberger. The avid dog lover was known to trade somewhere between 200 and 300 dogs a year. A resident of Leonberg, Germany, he hoped to create a dog that resembled the lion on the town’s crest. In 1846, Essig announced that he had developed a new dog by crossing a Landseer Newfoundland with a Saint Bernard, and then a Pyrenean mountain dog. He named the new breed after his beloved hometown. He then left to promote the dog while his niece, Marie, bred and trained the dogs at home.

Essig claimed that his lion-like dogs only came from those three breeds, but today’s experts are skeptical. Many believe that the dog must have been made using a wider range of types to achieve its unusual looks.

2. THEY WERE LOVED BY THE RICH AND FAMOUS.

Essig was an amazing salesman who was able to smooth-talk his way into the homes of royalty and celebrities around the world. He also used his position on the town council to promote both his town and the dogs that shared the town’s name. Leonbergers were soon owned by Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Prince of Wales, King Umberto of Italy, and the Czar of Russia.

3. WORLD WAR I ALMOST WIPED THEM OUT.

As with many other breeds, war threatened to wipe out the Leonberger. In an effort to save them from extinction, two breeders named Karl Stadelmann and Otto Josenhans rounded up the last 25. Only five of the remaining dogs were fit to breed; still, Stadelmann and Josenhans managed to reinvigorate the line. In 1922, a group of seven people came together to start a formal breeding program, and by 1926, they had 360 Leonbergers.

4. YOU CAN TELL THE SEXES APART.

Leos are dimorphic, meaning that the female and male dogs are noticeably different. Males are bred to be more “masculine” and generally heftier dogs; on average they weigh about 132 pounds, while females weigh an average of 105 pounds.

5. THEIR LITTERS ARE (USUALLY) AVERAGE-SIZED.

Typically, Leos don’t produce very many puppies at a time; litters have six puppies on average. In 2009, one Leonberger surprised its owners by giving birth to 18 puppies. Thought to be a breed record in the United States, the impressive number of pups kept their family very busy. The mother, named Ariel, had previously given birth to a litter of four puppies. Before she delivered her second, considerably larger litter, her owners were unable to tell how many puppies would be delivered, even with an ultrasound. “We knew it was at least 10,” they said.

6. THEY’RE IN TUNE WITH YOUR EMOTIONS.

Leonbergers are known to be a sensitive breed. It’s said that the kind dogs get visibly distressed when their family argues or otherwise expresses anger or sadness. Leos are bred as companion dogs, and enjoy being in the company of their owners. They don't do well when left alone for long periods of time.

7. THEIR SENSITIVITY MAKES THEM GREAT THERAPY DOGS.

These gentle giants have excellent bedside manner. They are great with children and the elderly, showing an amazing amount of gentleness for a dog of their size. (Their stature also makes it easy for them to be petted from a hospital bed.) In 2002, the Leonberger Club of America started an award program to celebrate Leos and their owners for taking time to participate in therapy programs.

8. THEY SHED A LOT.

Leonbergers have a thick double coat that gives them their lion-like appearance. The coat can come in many different colors, such as yellow, sand, brown, and red, usually tipped with black. Even the texture of their coats can have variety. Thanks to their mane-like appearance, owners of the dog are likely to find a lot of hair around their homes. Frequent brushing is a must unless you want your house overrun with hairballs. [PDF]

9. THEY MAKE GREAT SEARCH AND RESCUE DOGS.

It takes a special kind of dog—ideally, one with a powerful nose—to become a search and rescue dog. Leos are agile, well coordinated, and eager to please. In Canada, Germany, and other parts of Europe, the dogs are often used to find missing people. Thanks to their webbed feet, they’re great swimmers, which makes them perfect for water missions.

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NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
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technology
Researchers in Singapore Deploy Robot Swans to Test Water Quality
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

There's something peculiar about the new swans floating around reservoirs in Singapore. They drift across the water like normal birds, but upon closer inspection, onlookers will find they're not birds at all: They're cleverly disguised robots designed to test the quality of the city's water.

As Dezeen reports, the high-tech waterfowl, dubbed NUSwan (New Smart Water Assessment Network), are the work of researchers at the National University of Singapore [PDF]. The team invented the devices as a way to tackle the challenges of maintaining an urban water source. "Water bodies are exposed to varying sources of pollutants from urban run-offs and industries," they write in a statement. "Several methods and protocols in monitoring pollutants are already in place. However, the boundaries of extensive assessment for the water bodies are limited by labor intensive and resource exhaustive methods."

By building water assessment technology into a plastic swan, they're able to analyze the quality of the reservoirs cheaply and discreetly. Sensors on the robots' undersides measure factors like dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll levels. The swans wirelessly transmit whatever data they collect to the command center on land, and based on what they send, human pilots can remotely tweak the robots' performance in real time. The hope is that the simple, adaptable technology will allow researchers to take smarter samples and better understand the impact of the reservoir's micro-ecosystem on water quality.

Man placing robotic swan in water.
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

This isn't the first time humans have used robots disguised as animals as tools for studying nature. Check out this clip from the BBC series Spy in the Wild for an idea of just how realistic these robots can get.

[h/t Dezeen]

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There May Be an Ancient Reason Why Your Dog Eats Poop
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iStock

Dogs aren't known for their picky taste in food, but some pups go beyond the normal trash hunting and start rooting around in poop, whether it be their own or a friend's. Just why dogs exhibit this behavior is a scientific mystery. Only some dogs do it, and researchers aren't quite sure where the impulse comes from. But if your dog is a poop eater, it's nearly impossible to steer them away from their favorite feces.

A new study in the journal Veterinary Medicine and Science, spotted by The Washington Post, presents a new theory for what scientists call "canine conspecific coprophagy," or dogs eating dog poop.

In online surveys about domestic dogs' poop-eating habits completed by thousands of pet owners, the researchers found no link between eating poop and a dog's sex, house training, compulsive behavior, or the style of mothering they received as puppies. However, they did find one common link between the poop eaters. Most tended to eat only poop that was less than two days old. According to their data, 85 percent of poop-eaters only go for the fresh stuff.

That timeline is important because it tracks with the lifespan of parasites. And this led the researchers to the following hypothesis: that eating poop is a holdover behavior from domestic dogs' ancestors, who may have had a decent reason to tuck into their friends' poop.

Since their poop has a high chance of containing intestinal parasites, wolves poop far from their dens. But if a sick wolf doesn't quite make it out of the den in time, they might do their business too close to home. A healthier wolf might eat this poop, but the parasite eggs wouldn't have hatched within the first day or two of the feces being dropped. Thus, the healthy wolf would carry the risk of infection away from the den, depositing the eggs they had consumed away in their own, subsequent bowel movements at an appropriate distance before the eggs had the chance to hatch into larvae and transmit the parasite to the pack.

Domestic dogs may just be enacting this behavior instinctively—only for them, there isn't as much danger of them picking up a parasite at home. However, the theory isn't foolproof. The surveys also found that so-called "greedy eaters" were more likely to eat feces than dogs who aren't quite so intense about food. So yes, it could still be about a poop-loving palate.

But really, it's much more pleasant to think about the behavior as a parasite-protection measure than our best pals foraging for a delicious fecal snack. 

[h/t The Washington Post]

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